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Ohio Considers 'Equalization Fund' To Help Local Communities With Low Revenue

Center for Community Solutions researcher John Begala
Jo Ingles
/
Ohio Public Radio
Center for Community Solutions researcher John Begala says rural communities can no longer rely on sales tax revenue to fund local goverment initiatives.

A study released in 2016 showed rural areas are disproportionately poor, uneducated and pay relatively high costs for crime and disability because of the loss of good jobs, local businesses and opioid abuse. But there’s an idea being floated to establish a special state fund for those rural counties.

Under the plan, a $110 million equalization fund would be established to help counties that lack local revenues to meet basic needs - such as combating the opioid epidemic, developing economic programs, or covering general county expenses.

Any of the state's 88 counties, large or small, would be eligible to draw from the fund, which was proposed Wednesday by Republican former representative Gene Krebs.

Researcher John Begala and the Center for Community Solutions, which conducted the 2016 study, say many people in rural communities often have to go elsewhere to spend dollars, leaving their hometowns without a sales tax base to deal with local needs.

“What worked for 100 years is just simply out of whack and we need to revisit the entire revenue sharing system of state and local government in Ohio,” Begala said.

The fund could be tapped to fight the opioid crisis, develop economic programs that increase sales tax revenue or to cover general county expenses. Krebs, who’s now running for state Senate, says the fund would expire after a decade.